Lesson 3: Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings

Ruth: (4 chapters; Ca. 10th to 8th centuries B.C.)

The book of Ruth is a story about an Israelite woman named Naomi who, with her husband and two sons, because of famine, migrated from Bethlehem to the land of Moab on the eastern side of the Jordan River. There her husband died and left her a widow with two sons; then the sons took Moabite wives, Orpah and Ruth. After ten years the two sons also die. So Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem and tells the two daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpah does but Ruth wants to stay with Naomi, to go with her to Bethlehem and worship her God.

When they arrive, they have no way to support themselves, so Naomi sends Ruth out to glean the barley from the fields of Boaz, a relative. Boaz is attracted to Ruth and is kind to her; Naomi advises Ruth to make known to Boaz that she is available as a wife. Eventually the two are married. She gives birth to a son named Obed who becomes the father of Jesse who is the father of David. So Ruth the gentile Moabitess becomes the great-grandmother of King David.

The book makes clear that God's love and grace extend to those outside of Israel, even to the hated Moabites. Therefore a key theological notion of the book is the universal love of the Lord God for all peoples. Another idea is fidelity, since Ruth remains faithful to her mother-in-law in good times and in bad.

The book is also concerned with genealogy, since it deals with an ancestor of King David. St. Matthew mentions Ruth in the genealogy of Christ.

1 & 2 Samuel: (1 = 31 and 2 = 24 chapters; 10th century B.C.)

The theme of the two books of Samuel is the origin of the Davidic monarchy. It begins with Samuel who is both a judge and a prophet. At the direction of the Lord, Samuel anoints Saul as the first king; Saul is not faithful so he is rejected by the Lord who directs Samuel to anoint David to replace him. Saul is jealous of David and persecutes him. Saul dies in battle and then David is named king if Hebron. Most of the second book deals with the reign of David and the problems he had in government and in his family. With the death of his son Absalom, the way is open for the appointment of Solomon as David's successor; this is narrated in the next book, 1 Kings.

Yahweh is the Lord of history and is the main agent in the two books of Samuel. The basic idea is that God gave the Israelites what they wanted--a king like the kings in the tribes around them. In the time of the Judges, Yahweh was king--it was a type of theocracy. But the people were not satisfied--they wanted a king. There is a train of thought in the first book which is definitely opposed to the kingship; there is also another train of thought which is favorable to the Davidic kings.

David is the main character in both books. Theologically, the most important passage is found in 2 Sam. 7 in which God promises David that his descendants will rule forever. This prophecy is the basis of the Messianism which runs through the rest of the Bible and finds its fulfillment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The two books contain a clear theological statement about the effects of sin on a family. For, David's sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah bring upon him and his family a punishment of disorder and violence.

In the NT the narrative about the conception of Samuel (1 Sam. 1:1 - 2:11) is reflected in St. Luke's account of the annunciation to Mary. And Hannah's song of praise and thanksgiving in the sanctuary at Shiloh foreshadows Mary's Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55.

1 & 2 Kings: (1 = 22 and 2 = 25 chapters; 7th & 6th centuries B.C.)

The theme of the two books of Kings is the history of the monarchy from Solomon in 970 B.C. to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. After the death of Solomon, the united kingdom is divided into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Each king, both in the north and the south, is judged by the author according to whether or not he abided by the covenant of the Lord with Israel, esp. as this relates to the centralization of worship in the Temple in Jerusalem.

The two books are divided into three parts. The first eleven chapters report the death of David and Solomon's succession to the throne. The second part narrates the story of the two kingdoms from the death of Solomon in about 930 B.C. to the destruction of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians in 722 B. C. In this account we find two cycles of miracle stories surrounding the early great prophets, Elijah and Elisha.

The third part recounts what happened in Judah from 722 to 587 B.C. when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. Only two kings are praised for their promotion of the worship of the true God, Hezekiah and Josiah.

The student should note that the author is writing theology primarily, though it is based on real history. His primary concern is God's activity in history and the revelation of his holy will. His main point is that the fall of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem was the result of the chosen people's infidelity to the covenant with Yahweh.

The theological message of the two books is: 1) the catastrophe is to be explained because of the continual infidelity of the kings of Israel and Judah to both covenant and temple; 2) the word of God is infallible and always attains its end; 3) the promise made by God to David in 2 Sam. 7 that his dynasty will be eternal is a promise which must be fulfilled because God is faithful.

The prophets Elijah and Elisha combine their preaching with many miracles and in this they foreshadow Jesus who announces the Kingdom of God in power and miracles.

Reading Assignment

Read the five books covered in this lesson. Read dictionary articles on Elijah, Elisha, the Temple, and the two good kings, Hezekiah and Josiah.

Writing Assignment

Write an essay of about 1000 words on the prophet Samuel, or King David, or the Temple in Jerusalem, or the prophets Elijah and Elisha, or the good and bad aspects of the Davidic Monarchy.


Read some dictionary articles on Messianism in the OT.


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